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Saturday, 15 August 2020

Day 152 of self-isolation - vaccines and fines

How are vaccines tested?

In the pre-clinical stage of testing, researchers give the vaccine to animals to see if it triggers an immune response.

In phase 1 of clinical testing, the vaccine is given to a small group of people to determine whether it is safe and to learn more about the immune response it provokes.

In phase 2, the vaccine is given to hundreds of people so scientists can learn more about its safety and correct dosage.

In phase 3, the vaccine is given to thousands of people to confirm its safety – including rare side effects – and effectiveness. These trials involve a control group which is given a placebo. 

The Russian vaccine has not been through phase 2 or 3, and Russia's top respiratory doctor has resigned in protest at the gross violations of ethics involved in rushing through this vaccine. The Oxford vaccine has passed phases 1 and 2, and is now in phase 3. 

Our government has spent another £90 million and bought 60m doses of a vaccine from the US company Novavax, and 30m doses of another from the Janssen Pharmaceutical Company, owned by Johnson and Johnson. GSK/Sanofi Pasteur is also providing us with 60m doses. So we're buying a variety of eggs in a variety of baskets, and now have a total of 340m doses. Let's hope that at least one of them works!

Fines

We're relaxing the lockdown from Saturday - at least you can have your eyebrows threaded, which means they pull out the hairs at the follicle level. I have rather bushy eyebrows, but I keep them under control with scissors. Still, if you're a fan of threading, it's great that you can be threaded again.

Fines for going unmasked in a situation where it's mandatory (for example, public transport) have been increased to £3200, but since only 33 people have been fined so far, I wnder how much effect this will have. I find it amazing that people are willing to accept laws against drunk-driving (which benefit everyone) but some are reluctant to wear a simple cloth mask.

I'm just bought, on eBay, three 3M type 8835 masks - one for me, one for ladysolly and one for the wash. In addition, we both have washable cloth masks, and a couple of dozen disposable paper ones.

We're also allowed to gather in groups of up to 30 people; the fine for going above that limit is up to £10,000




Friday, 14 August 2020

Day 151 of self-isolation - Resurrection

Resurrection

Matthew 27:52 "and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised;"

In the UK, the total number of Covid-19 deaths has suddenly fallen from 46706 to 41329 (a fall of about 12%). How did this happen?

Previously, if you tested positive for Covid-19 and subsequently died, you would be included in the death from Covid-19 count. There's an obvious problem with this - if you were infected in March, recovered in April and in July you were killed by a falling piano, you would still be counted as a Covid-19 death.

So, after taking scientific advice (there's a good case to be made for banning the word "scientific" in this context), it was decided to apply a time limit. So now, you're only a Covid-19 death if you died within 28 days.

This, of course, is also not quite right. Some people will take longer than that to die.

There isn't a "right" answer here. Whatever criterion you use, can be objected to. In my view, most statistics have this kind of problem, and we just have to do the best we can. What is important, is consistency over time. It would be nice to have consistency across countries, but that's not usually possible.

The past figures have all been revised to be consistent, and whereas before we were seeing a long tail of 60 to 80 deaths per day, we are now seeing a long tail of around 12 deaths per day.

And that is a BIG difference. Although the total has fallen by 12%, the daily number is a fifth of the old statistics.

This doesn't affect the case numbers; we're still seeing just over 1000 new cases per day, and we'll be seeing the deaths from that in September.


Thursday, 13 August 2020

Day 150 of self-isolation - Kilograms

Kilograms

 

First, some good news. I'm down to  103 kilograms. My diet is working, slowly but surely.


The 13th August, is A level results day. I remember when I was eagerly awaiting my A level results, but at least I'd actually sat an exam. What must it be like for kids today, relying on teachers estimates, mock results and the astrological predictions of the stars? Best wishes to you all. I was fairly happy with my results.

Not so happy with the UK economy, which has fallen 20.4%, quarter on quarter. That's HUGE, much more than in other countries, and I have to wonder why. Were we just unlucky? I don't think so. The virus has accelerated many existing trends, such as the move to online shopping, the move away from face-to-face business meetings, and much more. And maybe it has accelerated to effect of Brexit. The position we're in now is one of huge uncertainty. We can't even get a trade deal with Japan, let alone our major trading partner, the EU. Brexiteers are moaning about these difficulties, to which I say "You won, get over it".

Investment has ground to a halt, along with the tourist industry, the hospitality industry, air travel and we don't know when it will come back - if ever. What will happen to sea cruises now? And how many businesses will just go under, never to be seen again? I'm hearing adverts saying "We left the EU, now's your chance!" and I just wonder, exactly what opportunities have opened up?

For example. I pay VAT (at German rates) on sales to Germany. But I don't pay VAT n sales to Canada. I'm being told that I will have to continue to pay VAT on saoles to Germany - except that I can't do it through the existing VAT Moss system, because that ends in December. So I'll have to register for ANOTHER Vat Moss system (non-union), based in an EU country (probably Ireland because they'll be able to speak English to me). Except I don't understand why, if we've left the EU, I am paying VAT to EU countries still. And what, exactly, is this opportunity? To me, it just looks like I have to jump through additional hoops, just to continue doing as I am, while an unelected Dominic Cummings, who seems to be above the rules of lockdown, is running the country.



Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Day 149 of self-isolation - Vaccine news

Vaccine news

 Two vaccine things to report - the Russian vaccine named Sputnik-V has been approved for use - in Russia. Not so much elsewhere. It has been tested on just 38 people, and that's only a phase 1 test. No Western country will approve a vaccine on such slender evidence, but dictatorial countries don't go by medical science, they go by the commands of the dictator.

 

In the USA, the ModeRNA vaccine is still being tested. Trump says that it will be ready by the election (November 3rd), but last February he was predicting a vaccine very soon, and that didn't happen either. But we do know the pricing for the vaccine, it will be $32 to $37. That's probably excluding the cost of the healthcare worker applying the injection.

In New Zealand, after 102 days without any new cases, a new Covid-19 infection has been found in Auckland. Four cases in one household. Stage three lock-down measures have been implemented.

In the UK, we're seeing 900 new cases per day, and rising while in the USA, the number of new cases per day is coming down from a peak of 78,000 to 55,000 and falling. World new cases are about 250,000 per day, and has plateaued.

The statistics for August 11 are not available because of "a technical problem".

I hear that New Zealand is very nice at this time of year.


Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Day 148 of self-isolation - Laptop upgrade

Laptop upgrade

I "inherited" an Advent 8555GX laptop with a faulty hard drive (I did a data recovery on it). It's been sitting around for a couple of years now.  I had a look, it's a standard 2 1/2 inch drive, but Sata (the ones I use are Pata). So I went on eBay, bought a Sata 2 1/2, 80 gb and installed it (£5). Then I needed to install an operating system - Linux, of course. But the DVD drive seems to be incredibly flaky, and I had to have dozens of tries of several different Linux versions before I finally got Linux Fedora 28, 64-bit, Workstation, net install, to read. Then I upgraded the Linux to version 30, then 32, which is the current version. Linux doesn't like it if you jump versions too far.

It has a 17 inch screen (1440 by  900), 4gb memory, gigabit ethernet, wifi, HDMI and VGA ports and much more.



Some big numbers


The total number of cases in the world is now over 20 million.

Brazil went over 100,000 deaths

The USA deaths are now more than 500 per million population.

Monday, 10 August 2020

Day 147 of self-isolation - to vaccinate or not?

To vaccinate or not?

This is not a simple question. If it were, then there wouldn't be about half of Americans refusing to vaccinate.

 

There are a number of reasons not to vaccinate, but the most convincing reason would be, if the harm caused by vaccination, was (on the average) greater that the harm caused by not vaccinating.

 We've got used to the idea that vaccination is a no-brainer.  The elimination of smallpox, the near-elimination of pertussis, rubella, polio, TB - we take those for granted. We've killed those diseases so effectively, that people no longer have the spectre of polio in front of their eyes. Kids don't die of whooping-cough. There are no more TB sanatoriums.

Now add to that - people trust governments a lot less than they used to. And, in the USA, people have no good reason to trust their healthcare provider, because in the USA, healthcare is a business, and the function of a business is to make a profit for the shareholders. In the UK, we don't have that problem - the function of the NHS is to make us healthy.

So, we have to make the case for vaccination. But first, let's look at some of the cases against.

 Compensation claims

 The most convincing data I could find, is compensation given for vaccine injury. This covers the period 1/1/2006 to 12/31/2018, so that's 13 years. Over that period, there were 3,761,744,351 vaccinations, and 5151 successful claims. That's 1.4 successful claims per million vaccinations. But let's put that into perspective. 5151 claims over 13 years, is 396 claims per year. If we look at injuries caused by lightning in the USA, there are 400 injuries and 40 deaths.

So the chance of getting a vaccine injury is about the same as the chance of getting hit by lightning.

Fetal cells

Another case against vaccines, is the fact that fetal cells are used. Yes, that's true for some vaccines (Varicella (chickenpox), rubella, hepatitis A, and one preparation of rabies). These are cells from elective termination of pregnancies in 1960; the cells are reproduced in the lab, and used to make vaccines. So they come from a 60 year old source, and not since then.

But the vaccines do not themselves contain fetal cells, or any human DNA segments.

Mercury

The form of mercury being considered here, is thimerosal. But thimerosal is not used in childhood vaccines. Flu vaccines are available in both thimerosal-containing (for multi-dose vaccine vials) and thimerosal-free versions. It was removed from UK vaccines between 2003 and 2005.

 Autism

Someone did a study that purported to show a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. It turned out that, not only was there a lot wrong with the study, but the doctor who wrote it was guilty of such egregious fraud, that he got struck off. And since then, everyone, including the National Autistic Society, have agreed that there is no link between vaccines and autism.

Speed

Vaccines take four years to develop. The Covid-19 vaccine has been rushed into production - how do I know that it's been properly tested?

That one is easy to refute. That simply isn't true. How do you think that we get flu shots each year? They cannot be taking four years to develop!

The true length is about five months. And that can be shortened, if you're willing to take the financial risk of going into mass production before the tests are complete. If you do that, and the tests prove bad, then you have to incinerate all that vaccine, which is a financial cost.

And, as with many processes, if you're willing to spend unusually large amounts of money no it, you can make some parts of it happen faster.

Poison

"I don't want anyone injecting poison into my child" - that's hard to argue with. Especially if you're arguing with someone who smokes, drinks alcohol, and eats Kentucky Fried Chicken. So I'm not going to try.

Microchips

I kid you not - there is a small but vocal group of people who think it's all a plot to inject us with quantum dots, that can be used as identifiers for us. Or microchips. The objective is to 

1) Inoculate against religion

2) Implanted identification

3) Mind control

4) Some evil plot by some evil mastermind. Yes, Windows was a pain.

Again - I'm not going to argue this one. You'll just have to accept that it's a fantasy. Or not, make up your own mind.

The case for vaccination

So now, let's look at the case for vaccination. What are the benefits?

I'm not going to talk about polio, tetanus, tuberculosis or rabies. They are, in the western world, quite rare. And the issue is going to be Covid-19. So let's look at the vaccination that is probably most similar - the influenza vaccine.

Each year, I have a flu jab. In the UK, it's free, and recommended by the NHS, and I trust the NHS, and that's important. Because Americans have less reason to trust their healthcare provider (who stands to make $5 to $30 from the jab).

Each year, the flu shot contains inactive virus for the three strains of influenza expected to be most common that year. One of the problems of flu, is that it mutates rapidly, and each year, a different version becomes the main problem.

Death numbers

 In the UK, there are around 8,000 deaths per year from flu (in 2018/19, that was 1700. The vaccine uptake is 71 to 75%. On the average, the flu vaccine is 50 to 60% effective. We don't know how many people get the flu each year, because most people just fight it off without hospital help, but with a 50% effectiveness rate and a death toll of 8000, that would mean that with a zero effectiveness rate (i.e., no-one is vaccinated) that would mean about twice as many deaths. So, the flu vaccine is saving thousands of lives each year.

In the UK, Covid-19 has killed 47,000 people, and that's after six months. The death rate has now come down to around 1200-1500 per month. If we had a 50% effective Covid-19 vaccine, and if 75% of people accepted it, that would save about 500 lives per month. But, more importantly, it would mean that people could go back to work, back to school, and back to the pubs.

The case for vaccination is that it lets us get back to normal, although it would be a "new normal". Now that businesses have found that they don't actually have to travel to important meetings, now that many people have found that they can work from home, now that people have found that online sales are more convenient than they had realised - the new normal will accelerate trends that were already happening.

Herd immunity

There has been much talk of "herd immunity". When a large enough percentage of people in the human "herd" are immune, the virus finds it difficult to infect new victims. At what percentage does this happen?

The general thinking is that this happens at about 60 to 70% of the population, although there's no hard-and-fast figure for this. It might be less. The point of herd immunity, is that even those who are not vaccinated, are protected, because the virus can't get close to them, with all the immune people getting in the way. And some people can't be vaccinated, for medical reasons. Herd immunity protects them, as well as the 50% for which the vaccination is ineffective.

So it would be very good to reach the goal of herd immunity. But even without that, vaccination benefits the individuals who choose to vaccinate.

Compulsory vaccination

Should vaccination be compulsory? The herd immunity is the reason in favour of that - it protects those who can't vaccinate for medical reasons. But I think that the political cost of compulsory vaccination would be too grat. We've never done it before, because people have always made their own decisions, and made the right decisions. So I don't think it should be compulsory.

Bottom line

The bottom line is this. I understand the science, and I've looked at the numbers. I've seen the arguments for and against. Even if I didn't, I trust our NHS.

As soon as the vaccine is available, ladysolly and myself will be taking it.
















Sunday, 9 August 2020

Day 146 of self-isolation - testing and masking

Testing and masking

A test that gives you back results two weeks later is useless. Even a week later is useless. But what are test results taking so long?

The problem is in how companies are paid. Currently, they are paid per test, and there's nothing about turn-around times. Here's how it should be.

If you turn the test round within 48 hours, you get paid. Longer than that, you dn't get paid. Within 24 hours, you get a bonus.

NHS test labs take less than 24 hours.

I'm hoping that this timing will get better as the high-speed tests are rolled out across NHS hospitals, care homes and labs.

 When schools reopen, I'm hoping that masking will be mandatory. When I was at school, there was a mandatory dress code; trousers, blazer, tie and cap. We hated wearing the cap, which was only for the first to third form. I don't know why we hated the caps, maybe they symbolised our subjugation by the system. Or maybe it was just a fashion statement. We also had to wear shorts until the fourth form, at which point we changed from blue to black blazers, long trousers, and NO CAPS! Compared to the arbitrary imposition of caps, the requirement to wear face masks would have been a small thing, although I know that some of my classmates would have rebelled. Just because.

And I would probably have been one of the rebels.